22 August 2006

Some cities in the US

Mahattan is the capital city of high culture; the most vibrant of cities in which to shop, eat and be entertained; and simply the centre of the world. The terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 prompted me to visit - four times to date. Were a year's job-swap ever possible, I should find it impossible to resist. In the meantime my next visit is being plotted.

DC, with its Smithsonians, its grand architecture, and the charming politeness of many of the people who live there, make it a worthy tourist city. Its pleasant weather, reasonably accessible public transport system, and several vegetarian eating places (all of which had vegan dishes) made the four days I spent there all too brief, and I should have preferred to have spent four weeks. DC is high on my list of cities to revisit.

Boston, on the other hand, is significantly over-rated as a tourist destination, and is worth avoiding until even Washington (Tyne & Wear, UK), Peterlee (County Durham, UK) and Harlow (Essex, UK) have been exhausted. Whereas it likes to trade under the name of 'Beantown', Boston's historical sites are few, poorly presented, and offensively partisan. Many of the people who inhabit central Boston behave coldly at best, some might say rudely. There is virtually no vegan food to be had anywhere near central Boston. On the other hand, Cambridge was pleasant in a very, very low key way, but nothing to Oxford (UK), Cambridge (UK) or ever Dublin (Eire).

Chicago has wonderful architecture stretching back to the nineteenth century. As well as the grand buildings, such as the Institute of Art, and the fascinating 1920s' skyscrapers (such as the Union Carbide building), and the imposing late twentieth century skyscrapers (such as the Sears Tower), Frank Lloyd Wright left his mark, several in fact, at Oak Park - essential viewing for anyone interested in architecture. A boat trip is an excellent way to view the architecture of downtown Chicago. The Instiute of Art, so lovingly featured in John Hughes' movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is world class, and is essential viewing. Several recent movies use the ambience of Chicago as though a chartacter: Fugitive, starring Harrison Ford, and While You Were Sleeping, starring Sandra Bullock. The public zoo is set in parkland on the lakeshore. There is vegetarian food in Chicago, including in the gay, bohemian suburb of North Halstead.

To be continued ...

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